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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Pet project: Are you a cat person or a dog lover?

Read this to see how a cat-allergic cat lover who loves dog lovers survives

brunch Updated: Jul 28, 2018 22:40 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Pets are capable of bringing great joy but also the resentment of great responsibility
Pets are capable of bringing great joy but also the resentment of great responsibility(Photo imaging: Parth Garg )

It’s funny, my relationship with pets. I adore them, but in small doses. Find them to be madly disarming but also too much work. Capable of bringing great joy but also the resentment of great responsibility. A dog in the street can melt my heart. But a pesky pet can make visits to certain friends’ homes impossible. I love cats, but am highly allergic to them. What’s the category for this sort of person?

The cat in the bag

“Keep cats/if you want to learn to cope with/the otherness of lovers […] That stare of perpetual surprise/in those great green eyes/will teach you/to die alone,” suggested Eunice de Souza in her poem Advice to Women. The professor-poet herself tended to stray dogs and birds, but I do not recall her having any affinity with domestic felines. From Mr. Bigglesworth made infamous by Austin Powers to the term ‘catty’ that connotes a bickering woman, these whiskered sorcerers have traditionally received bad press.

Cats own the Internet. Why does every raised paw or supine pose launch a million posts?

Enter the Internet. I once asked a prodigious browser where all his time online went. “Cat videos,” he casually replied, like it was the most obvious answer. My Facebook timeline flaunts cats in every pose imaginable with captions ranging from the blithering to the Shakespearean. Cats own the Internet. I catch myself asking, “Why does every raised paw or supine pose launch a million posts?” Then I look at Jack, the black-and-white charmer curled around my rucksack at a rainy café at this very moment, and do not have the heart to push him away. I sneeze prolifically when cat and bag are parted – without antihistamines this allergy can be quite distressing. Strangely powerful creatures these, and I’m not sure they’re wielding this power responsibly.

Canine choir

Now dog lovers are a species that must be studied closely. They feel the constant need to compare humans with dogs, to the detriment of the former. I like dogs, too. They’re happy-making, warmth-providing, boredom-dispelling sweethearts. But not always. Chronic dog lovers, like Harry Potter’s Hagrid, can’t help but treat their fang-baring monsters like they’re little fur balls. “He won’t do anything,” is the patently false motto of the canine choir. This while the bundle of joy has fastened its not unsharp teeth into my sole pair of jeans while threatening a worse fate if I move. I look helplessly to the soft-hearted (and headed) dog parent, who utters a weak admonition to the snarling attacker and commands me to ignore her exuberance.

My jeans and ego have taken a million such beatings.

Then there is the wreckage. Half-chewed rugs. Newspapers covering defiled floors. Hair everywhere. I’m too faint-hearted to ever contemplate a pet of my own. But I do confess that I love dog lovers, often despite all their dog love. They tend to be the good guys. And they pick their dogs over me every time. If that’s not insanely charming, what is?

Posh pets

I recently walked into a doggy café in Delhi’s hipster Shahpur Jat, wondering what the deal would be. I opened the door to find a little air-conditioned café with a few tables separated from a doggy enclosure where three pedigreed pooches looked at me condescendingly. I scanned the menu and found it to be prohibitive. Elsewhere, pet spas promise fancy treatments for posh pets. Self-professed animal lovers shop for high-born cats and silver-spooned dogs. The irony of spoiling your store-bought pets while failing indie animals is incredible. Inequity begins at home. I’ve gotten into serious quarrels with people who’d rather feed dogs than humans in the street. The question is loaded. But we all find ourselves firmly on one side of the divide.

A kind-hearted friend recently took in eight vulnerable pups from the street. Her husband and she pretty much made their entire life about the puppy army in the weeks that followed. I scoffed at their largesse and optimism. But after much scratching, biting, whimpering and cuddling, six of the pups left for loving homes. My friends are left with two. Another friend showers most of her income and time on four rescue cats. She needs to be rescued from their bondage, in my opinion. But I wouldn’t dare say that to her. If it weren’t for this ghastly allergy, perhaps I’d be posting pictures of photogenic cats, too. Count me among the dog lover-loving cat people.

From HT Brunch, July 29, 2018

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First Published: Jul 28, 2018 20:37 IST

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